Aardman Animation managing director Sean Clarke addressed several major issues facing the U.K. animation sector, warning that the country is falling behind other key animation territories.
What did he say and why now? According to Clarke, “Children’s television is suffering and what’s produced in this country will go off the edge of a cliff in the next couple of years, unless something is done. The ideas will still be conceived here, but they’ll be made elsewhere.”
Clarke’s concerns were expressed to The Guardian, while the U.K. government currently holds hearings on audiovisual tax reliefs. Experts from across the screen industries are weighing in on the consultation, which is scheduled to wrap up February 9.
What are his main concerns? Clarke is worried about a lack of work-ready artists coming from British animation schools and a tax relief program that is no longer competitive with the other territories.
- Education: “Training is broken in this country. There is no infrastructure to train and nurture the next generation of talent for film and television generally,” said Clarke. According to him, graduates entering the workforce are not “production-ready,” which forced Aardman to launch its own academy to train its employees in areas where the country’s schools fell short.
- Tax Relief: U.K. tax programs meant to stimulate cultural industries such as film and tv can’t keep up with other major animation territories. Countries like Ireland, France, Canada, and Spain – especially the Canary Islands – offer tax rebates to animated productions ranging anywhere from 37% up to 50%. In the U.K., production tax rebates are just 25%. According to Clarke, “I have the Spanish calling me all the time saying, ‘Why don’t you come to the Canaries, where it’s up to 50%?’ We have to consider it.”
What caused these issues? According to Clarke, the U.K.’s decision to leave the European Union hit the audiovisual sector hard. After Brexit, U.K. and European citizens lost the ability to easily move back and forth for work, limiting and homogenizing the U.K. animation workforce. He also explained that important European media funding is no longer available to British companies, and the local government hasn’t picked up the slack for that loss of aid. Making matters worse, the U.K. ended its Young Audiences Content Fund, which was key in launching local original productions.
Doesn’t the U.K. have more important things to fund than movies and tv shows? If the issue here was a matter of handing out donations, almost certainly. However, as Clarke pointed out, the investments he and other industry members are asking for has a “clear, tangible return on it.” Clarke added, ”The Young Audience Fund was £40 million over three years and, in terms of the economic value to the U.K., it is forecast to create £320 million by 2027, not to mention jobs and the cultural benefit of U.K.-produced shows.”